His is a name well known in the architectural world. And with his latest collaboration with Louis Vuitton, it seems Frank Gehry is set to make some waves in the beauty industry as well. Known for his organic forms imbued with a sense of movement, the 92-year-old architect designed his very first perfume bottle for the House’s Les Extraits Collection, comprising five fragrances by master perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud.
Inspired by the air in Grasse, where Belletrud’s laboratory is located, the Les Extraits fragrances break the mould of traditional scents. Unlike conventional ones, which are structured around top, heart and base notes, these five—Dancing Blossom, Cosmic Cloud, Rhapsody, Symphony and Stellar Times—are free-flowing, much like how dandelion seeds dance through the air to the wind’s fancy. Giving form to this conceptual fluidity is Gehry’s creation, which features a rounded body topped with a sculptural cap in seemingly crumpled hand-polished metal. Here, Gehry lets us in on his design process, his ongoing relationship with the French fashion house and his creation.
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This is your first perfume bottle—is the design process any different from that behind a building?
“I think the difference is mostly of scale, place and time; the same kind of thought process and discipline [actually go into designing both]. A building is interactive. People use it, they live inside it, they sleep, listen to music and work there… it’s more active [compared to a perfume bottle, which] often sits on a shelf. But I think what’s similar is that they both express feelings—feelings that people can relate to and then they in turn express their own feelings with, for or because of them. Perfume bottles make a statement of intent and [for fragrances that are considered very special at Louis Vuitton, as the Les Extraits ones are, the brand] takes extraordinary time to develop them with experts, artists and so on. For the Les Extraits Collection, I wanted to show its spirit of freedom and that specialness.”
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This isn’t your first outing with Louis Vuitton. Tell us more about your relationship with the Maison.
“The idea to do something special in Bois de Boulogne was brought to me by Bernard Arnault (Chairman and CEO of LVMH). I’m very proud to have been part of the project around the Fondation Louis Vuitton (the French art museum and cultural centre sponsored by LVMH and designed by Gehry). When I work, freedom is very important to me. I think that’s what connects me to Louis Vuitton—the sense of freedom, the willingness to jump into the unknown… It’s quite unusual to work with brands that are willing to open their eyes and feelings to new ideas and expressions.”
You once called the Fondation Louis Vuitton “The Cloud”. How would you describe this bottle you’ve designed?
“I’d say it’s a visual fragrance, a search for understanding the ephemeral quality of the scent in the bottle. It’s not a finished geometric form… its shape is kind of ephemeral. This bottle is… a hydrodynamic line that recalls the undulating motion of fish, the spatial expression of that slow, continuous back and forth, the interplay of unstable equilibrium and gliding underwater, which have always been an architect’s obsession.”